‘Soveraigne Receipts’, Fair Beauty and Race in Stuart England

  • Edith Snook


I turn now to three texts that confer authority on the definition of beauty as fair and healthy to examine the strategies by which fair beauty becomes powerful and normative. Queen Henrietta Maria’s last masque, Salmacida Spolia (1639/40) by William Davenant, has the Queen embodying Amazonian fair, healthy beauty against an anti-masque of recipes. The Queens Closet Opened (1655), printed as the recipe collection of Queen Henrietta Maria, includes recipes for beautifying physic and fashions the Queen as a medical authority. Reflecting on the political conflicts of the Civil War and Interregnum, Aphra Behn’s posthumously published prose narrative, The Wandring Beauty (1698), rewrites heroic tales of Charles II’s 1651 escape from Worcester through a well-born Royalist maid whose fair skin and medical expertise allow her, while disguised as the daughter of a yeoman, to escape a forced marriage and find her own more suitable match. It may seem curious to include Salmacida Spolia and The Queens Closet Opened in a book about women’s writing. But if Queen Henrietta Maria did not write the masque, critics have positioned her as a producer of masques and through her performances the aesthetics of the Stuart court.1 Likewise, if the Queen did not write the recipes in The Queens Closet Opened, she was their collector, and she provided them with authority.


Walnut Shell White Skin Forced Marriage Fair Skin Elite Woman 
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© Edith Snook 2011

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  • Edith Snook

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